Best Beach Towns in California to Explore and Have Fun

Visiting the beach can be for personal relaxation official purpose or just for fun with family and friends or even for site seeing. which ever one it is for you California has you covered.

With over 800 miles of coastline, California is a dream destination for beach lovers. From surf culture hubs in Southern California to charming coastal villages farther north, the state boasts an incredible variety of seaside experiences.

Here’s a blog post to the very best beach towns in California for an unforgettable oceanfront getaway.
Some California beach towns are so fabulous that they appeal to just about everyone seeking sun, sand, and seaside fun.

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Best Overall Beach Towns in California

These are some of the top picks for an amazing overall beach vacation.

Santa Barbara

With its Mediterranean climate and postcard-perfect setting between the ocean and the mountains, Santa Barbara earns high marks as one of California’s best overall beach towns. Stearns Wharf stretches into the ocean, lined with seafood shacks and outfitters offering cruises and whale watching excursions.

MOXI museum provides interactive science fun for families. Couples enjoy wine tasting in the Funk Zone and outdoor concerts near the historic courthouse downtown. Well-heeled retirees have flocked to Santa Barbara for its gracious lifestyle. Excellent resorts, fine dining, and sophisticated shopping complete the picture.

San Diego

It is easy to see why San Diego is one of California’s most popular beach destinations. Visitors can choose from an extensive collection of beaches, from the expansive Coronado Beach to the secluded coves of La Jolla. LEGOLAND California Resort and SeaWorld provide amusement park fun.

The historic Gaslamp Quarter downtown tempts with restaurants, clubs, Victorian architecture and Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres baseball team. San Diego offers an unbeatable lineup of family-friendly attractions paired with vibrant urban energy.

Laguna Beach

Stretching along 7 miles of spectacular Orange County shoreline, Laguna Beach boasts postcard-worthy coves, cliffs and sandy stretches perfect for surfing and sunbathing. This artsy community attracts creative types with its acclaimed Gallery Row showcasing everything from contemporary paintings to handcrafted jewelry.

Visitors can catch live music, theater and dance at the Laguna Playhouse and other venues. The Pageant of the Masters recreates famous artworks with live models during July and August. Trendy cafes and ocean-view restaurants create a buzzy dining scene.

Best Beach Towns in California

Sometimes the classic California beach experience is best found in the small, charming beach villages. For an intimate, relaxing seaside escape, check out these top small beach towns.


Located near Santa Cruz on Monterey Bay, the little village of Capitola offers seaside charm in a compact package. Colorful beach cottages and shops surround a small craftsman-style downtown centered around the historic Venetian Court.

South of town, New Brighton State Beach attracts surfers to a break known as The Hook. Visitors craving a tasty meal after a day at the beach can choose from crab sandwiches, chowder bread bowls, tacos and other casual eats from beachfront restaurants and cafes.


Storybook cottages, inns, galleries and shops set Carmel-by-the-Sea apart as one of California’s most enchanting small beach towns. The community takes pride in its quaint European-style architecture and absence of chain businesses.

Visitors delight in the walkable downtown and nearby Carmel Beach, where scenic pathways traverse the bluffs. For wine lovers, Carmel Valley pouring some of Monterey County’s best varietals at sophisticated tasting rooms. Talented chefs prepare everything from seasonal California cuisine to French classics at Carmel’s many excellent restaurants.

Pismo Beach

Classic California beach culture thrives in Pismo Beach, an iconic retreat midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Visitors dig their toes in the sand, go beachcombing, ride ATVs on the dunes, and explore the Monarch Butterfly Grove when the insects cluster in the eucalyptus trees from late fall through winter.

Pismo Beach has a retro vibe, with old-fashioned burger and seafood joints serving the clam chowder the town is famed for. Nearby resorts and vacation rentals offer many options for overnight accommodations.

Best Surf Towns in California

As the birthplace of surf culture in the U.S., California offers premier surfing opportunities. These beach towns are especially famous for their epic waves, surf competitions and welcoming vibe for surfers.

Huntington Beach

The quintessential surf city, Huntington Beach always delivers exhilarating wave riding. With 10 miles of beaches, Surf City USA lives up to its nickname by hosting major events like the US Open of Surfing each summer.

Beginners can take lessons and rent boards near the Huntington Beach Pier while experienced surfers paddle out at breaks like Bolsa Chica State Beach. Bonfire pits for post-surf hangouts and oceanfront hotels round out the surf town essentials.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz has been well known for its surf culture since the 1960s. Surfing museums and organizations like the Santa Cruz Surfing Club preserve this heritage. While Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point attract advanced surfers, beginners stick to family-friendly Cowell Beach near the wharf.

Wetsuit-clad surfers browse boards and gear at Jack O’Neill’s original surf shop downtown. After riding the waves, surfers refuel on tacos, burritos and other tasty treats from the many casual eateries around town.

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With its miles of private beaches and prime waves, Malibu attracts dedicated surfers as well as celebrities looking to live the relaxed beach lifestyle. Surfrider Beach is considered one of the world’s best surf spots but crowds are common.

Zuma Beach, County Line and Point Dume also offer excellent surf. Hardcore wave riders can be spotted riding the swells year-round. Luxury beach homes and trendy cafes line the PCH, perfect for spotting the rich and famous.

Best Beach Towns in California for Families and Friends

When it comes to keeping the kids, loved ones and close friends entertained some California beach towns stand out for their abundance of family-friendly fun.
Add these to the list of some memorable coastal getaways with the whole crew.


In northern San Diego County, Oceanside serves up a warm weather escape focused on family fun. Build sandcastles on the broad beach near the 1,942-foot wooden pier. Try unlimited rides on the Beach Blaster or other amusement park classics at Oceanside Pier Plaza.

Weekly farmers markets and free summer concerts add to the festive vibe. Many hotels and vacation rentals offer special kids’ activities plus pools and water slides.

Newport Beach

Families flock to Newport Beach for its stunning beaches, calm waves and lively yet laidback scene. Kids love swimming at the beach across from the historic Balboa Pavilion or riding the Balboa Island Ferry.

Ruby’s Diner at the end of the iconic Balboa Pier dishes up burgers, shakes and views. South of town, The Wedge and the Fun Zone entertainer kids with arcades and harbor cruises. The mild weather also makes Newport Beach an easy weekend getaway any time of year.

Santa Monica

This quintessential beach town near Los Angeles provides the perfect mix of family fun, great dining and upscale accommodations. Families with kids of all ages enjoy the rides on the Santa Monica Pier and getting up close to aquatic animals at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Bikers and skaters take advantage of the scenic oceanfront path.

Shoppers indulge at the outdoor Santa Monica Place mall and the 3rd Street Promenade lined with street performers and upscale chains. Add the farmers market and plenty of kid-friendly eateries, and Santa Monica makes an ideal spot for active families.


With its incredible diversity of breathtaking shorelines and welcoming communities, California offers beach vacations for just about everyone. Whether you are looking for surf culture, small town charm or family fun, the beach towns highlighted in this post are ready to provide the quintessential California ocean experience.

As one of the world’s beach meccas, the Golden State guarantees sublime sunsets, refreshing ocean breezes and blissful days by the sea. Start planning your California beach town getaway today.


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